Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hyper-dramatic spectacle, from a special place

Georg Muffat's only surviving sacred work is the Missa in Labore Requies for a huge complement of musicians: two choirs of voices and three of instruments, with basso continuo. This must have made a mighty noise and impressed everyone who heard it in Salzburg Cathedral. Unaccountably, this music has only been recently noticed; this is the third and by far the best of the versions that have been recorded. Johannes Strobl conducts the Cappella Murensis (24 singers), the Trompetenconsort Innsbruck (5 trumpets and timpani), and the 20 musicians of Les Cornets Noirs.

This is a really spectacular work; it has the hyper-dramatic spectacle of High Baroque French opera (Muffat may have studied with Lully), with the special oddness that Muffat and Biber bring to their music (an oddness I adore).  I heard the music in stereo only, though it really should be heard in Surround Sound, or even better, watched on Blu-ray or DVD, since the recording was made in a very special space: the beautiful Klosterkirche of the Benedictine Abbey Muri-Gries. However, a note in the booklet indicates that HD-Downloads are available from audite.deThe CD will be released on July 1, 2016.

Unfortunately there's no proper video up on the web showing these musicians at work in Muri. There is this story on Swiss Television that's agonizingly slow to load. Persevere, though, and you'll get a good feel for how Stobl arranges his singers and instrumentalists in this beautiful space. I'm assuming Audite will very soon post the Muffat video on YouTube with English subtitles, as they did with a previous recording of Gabrieli and Schütz in the same space, with the same musicians.

This is a well-filled disc at over 70 minutes. There are marvellous instrumental works by Bertali, Biber and Schmelzer to go with the Muffat Mass, which gives us a better idea of Muffat's musical environment as well as providing superb music from a special place.

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